Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, June 6, 2014

Overlord's Commanders and Their Great War Service

The High Command for Operation Overlord, except for Supreme Commander General Dwight Eisenhower and U.S. First Army Commander Omar Bradley, was predominately made up of veterans of the Great War, who had all seen notable service in that conflict.  In some cases, such as Bernard Montgomery's, they also survived serious wounds.

SHAEF's High Command

Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder 
WWI Service: RFC/RAF
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Deputy Supreme Allied Commander

Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory 
WWI Service: Lancashire Fusiliers and RFC/RAF
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Air Forces Commander

Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay
WWI Service: Commander HMS Broke
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Naval Forces Commander

General Bernard Law Montgomery
WWI Service: 47th Division, among several
D-Day, 6 June 1944: 21st Army Group Commander (Land Forces Commander)

Lt. General Miles Dempsey (Not shown)
WWI Service: Royal Berkshire Regiment
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Second British Army

Lt. General Walter Bedell Smith 
WWI Service: 4th Division
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Chief of Staff SHAEF

Further, a number of the divisional commanders that led their units in airborne drops or onto the beaches were also notable veterans of the First World War. The first two on this list, Clarence Heubner and Charles Gerhardt, were earlier involved in the first "D-Day" in history, the U.S. First Army's St. Mihiel Offensive, 12 September 1918, for which the designations "D-Day" and H-Hour" were coined.

MG Clarence Huebner
WWI Service: 1st Division
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Commander, 1st Division

MG Charles Hunter Gerhardt
WWI Service: 89th Division
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Commander, 29th Division

MG Raymond O. Barton
WWI Service: 8th Division (Occupation Only)
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Commander, 4th Division

MG Richard Nelson Gale
WWI Service: Machine Gun Corps,
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Commander, 6th Airborne Division

MG Douglas Alexander Henry Graham
WWI Service: 1st Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
D-Day, 6 June 1944: Commander, 50th Division

Our Virtual Tour of the Western Front returns next Friday.


  1. It is also of note that Douglas Macarthur and George Patton both served with note in WWI but neither were involved in D-Day. One might say Patton was because he was a decoy in northern England.

  2. Politics. Patton was the commander the Germans feared most. Decoy. What a waste of materiel.

  3. The names under the photo do not match the photo. I.e., no Bradley, etc.
    T Morgan